The Fox network was rewarded what it hadn't received in nine seasons, a seven-game World Series, it had an epic Game 6 to create an all-day buzz Friday leading into the finale and the result was the top rating for a Fall Classic contest in seven years.
The Nielsen Co. says 14.7 percent of homes with a television in the U.S. were tuned in, the highest rating for a Series contest since Boston beat the Cardinals in Game 4 in 2004 to end its 86-year drought without a title. That drew an 18.2 rating.
And Game 7 probably would have been rated even higher had it been played Thursday, when it originally had been scheduled. But it was being pushed back a day because Game 6 was postponed from Wednesday to Thursday because of rain.
One Fox official had estimated that a Friday Game 7 would draw about a 10 percent lower rating than if it was played Thursday, because more people go out on Friday nights than Thursdays, thus aren't watching TV. But Fox, in its 12th consecutive season of showing the Series, simply was gleeful to finally have a winner-take-all showdown.
"Game 7 is Game 7, it doesn't matter when you play it,'' vice chairman of Fox Sports Media Group Ed Goren said. "You don't get to pick the night, you don't get to pick the weather. You're just happy to have a Game 7.''
Even with the audience being smaller than if the game had been played Thursday, it created some milestones. It was the highest-rated Friday night program in Fox's history, and was the most-watched Friday show on TV since the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics last year on NBC.
And the big ratings finish, combined with a solid 13.7 figure the night before when the Cardinals twice came back from being one strike away from being eliminated before winning on David Freese's 11th-inning homer, vaulted the Series from ratings doldrums to a lucrative finish for Fox.
"We're in line with financial projections, which is somewhat surprising because we didn't have the big (Eastern markets of) New York, Boston or Philadelphia,'' Goren said even before Game 6 was played.
Still, Game 7 fell well short of the rating for the last winner-take-all Series contest, when Fox registered a 17.9 figure for Anaheim's 4-3 victory over San Francisco in 2002. But Goren said Fox sold out its Series advertising early this year and he added that combined with the American League title series that Fox carried, advertising interest is 'stronger than ever.
"Football and baseball always go counter to the economic picture of the day,'' he said. "Live events are TiVo-proof, people don't wait to watch until the next day.''
Overall, the Series got off to a slow start in the ratings and for a while was threatening to break the record low-tying figure from 8.4 of last year. But even with the big finish, the Series drew the third-lowest number ever. It beat only last season and the 8.4 figure of 2008 (Tampa Bay-Philadelphia, a Series hampered by rain delays). But the fantastic Game 6 this year gave Fox seven games, and Goren was ecstatic about it finally going to the max.
"For us, certainly it's an economic boom but I believe any sport benefits from a memorable postseason,'' Goren said. "If the championship round lasts four or five games, it's hard to have a memorable one. But you can with seven, and it can carry over to next season.''
Game 7 was seen in 52.7 percent of homes with a TV locally, Nielsen says, which makes it the second highest-rated program on St. Louis television in this century. The only thing to beat it was the Rams' Super Bowl victory over Tennessee in January 2000 as they culminated the last rags-to-riches local pro sports story — the team began the season at 200-1 or higher odds in some Nevada sports books to win the title.
And the local rating for Game 7 probably would have been bigger if not for that "Friday Factor,’’ because with many people not having to work or go to school the next day there was a lot of viewing in public places and at in-home parties, thus cutting into the number of viewers in their home. A telling statistic is that Nielsen says 67 percent of homes that had the TV on during the game tuned to it, on KTVI (Channel 2), with a whopping 89 percent tuned in as the game ended.